So, what has been the impact of OSR?

Trippy

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While I personally tend to cock a snook to a lot of trends in gaming, they nevertheless provide something interesting to analyse in any given timeframe. Over the decades, gaming tends to follow particular trends in a Hegelian fashion - with one being opposed by another, like a thesis and antithesis leading to new a hypothesis - and the gaming community follows on. In the previous decade, we saw an underlying (albeit unofficial and unstated) conflict between D20/OGL and "Indie/Narrative" trends in gaming. In this decade, while D20/OGL and Indie games haven't gone away, we have seen another trend take centre stage- the return to 'Old School' gaming.

Like many trends, you can't say that this drive originates in the current times, it's more a case of reaching a sort of ascendency which is reflected in many current games. So, for example, when WFRP 3rd edition was released, and 'Narrative' game design was all the rage, we saw all sorts of experimental bells and whistles added to a giant box set, with a theme of promoting story. With 4th Edition being released, it is most certainly is a throwback to the 1st edition, with some tweaks and adjustments in certain areas, admittedly, but the aesthetic towards the 'Old School' trend is clear. It's not just WFRP. The recent RuneQuest: Glorantha release was a definitive attempt to revert back to the 2nd edition of the game. Both D&D 5th and Mongoose Traveller presented rulesets that were aesthetically based on older, more simpler versions of rules. Champions Complete, was an attempt to recapture the purity of the specific superhero game, that had since evolved into a generic rules game. Indeed, Ron Edwards wanted to take it back to Champions 3rd edition with his own campaign. Vampire 5th edition, controversial as it seems to be for some, was an attempt to capture the spirit of the first edition and take it into the 21st century. The upcoming Cyberpunk has notably retconned the third edition and Cybergeneration developments to extend the world based on the 2020 edition. The Star Wars RPG celebrated it's 30th Anniversary by re-releasing it's 1987 WEG rules.

If there was another attempt to license the Marvel Universe for another, inevitably short lived but typically 'state of the art' RPG, I'd wager it would be most likely to revert back to a version of the old FACERIP rules, given the current trends. Ditto James Bond, with it's 1980s ruleset. It's just what fans seem to want, isn't it?

Even when new game systems are presented, there is an attempt to sell them on the basis of going 'back to basics' to the conceptual goals of the original games - a great example of an 'Old School' game is Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, which presents a Conan-esque setting with AD&D-esque rules. And it's popular and very cool - but it isn't new in any progressive sense. I could say the same for dozens of new games that do the same thing. Stars Without Numbers is just a meeting of old-school D&D rules, for use with old-school Traveller settings.

All that said, 'Old School' is a fairly nebulous term. For some, it basically means converting all games and genres to a personalised, bespoke version of old D&D rules. For others, it is a reaction to the aforementioned indie/narrative and more complicated 'genericisation' of rulesets such as D20/OGL. For others, it's a conveniant brand to associate with, when 'indie/narrative' or D20/OGL has lost it's marketing appeal…. But mechanically, we can often see that long skill and trait lists are getting shortened, after they had previously been introduced as a progression, randomised character generation is preferred over controlled point spend and rules-sets themselves are more discrete and associated with particular settings or implied settings rather than being offered up as a generic ruleset as was often the case previously. There is also Kickstarter, which has tapped into a market of nostalgia for older games with established fanbases, who are older and have deeper pockets than they did.

Anyway, feel free to throw in some counterpoints. :smile:

Is this a real trend, and if we accept the Hegelian dialectic, what is the countertrend?
 

TJS

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How much impact is the OSR having outside of the OSR?

I ask this because I don't know if I'm seeing it all that much. I'm a bit ambivalent about the OSR and somewhat sick of it, but there are lessons from it I've defintiely learnt and which I wish non-D&D games would learn.

+s (from my perspective)
Focus on producing material for playability at the table.
Implicit recognisation that rpgs are their own medium and should be approached that way and not aimed at emulating other media like movies.
Focus on subsystems and the like for the GM to accomplish goals in play rather than endless player widgets.
Story emerges rather than is planned.
-s
Fetishisation of random character generation and basic D&D in general.
Playing the same F%*$%^& game over and over again until the end of time.

I'm not seeing much of this in the wider industry. There does seem to be a trend toward simpler systems, and probably at least in the case of 5E that's the influence of the OSR (although 5E is not that simple) but beyond that? I also feel like I'm seeing a return of a lot of the playstyles from the nineties. A lot of the stuff that's in 5E and which people actually (to my suprise) seem to be taking seriously, like Bonds and flaws and inspiration seem to be a lot like the old Nature and Demeanour in White Wolf games (their immediate influence might have been more narrative games like Fate - but since D&D is not a narrative game - it works out in practice more like how it was in the 90s where you have to play out your character in a forced way and then sit up and beg for the GM to give you a prize for role-playing). And I'm seeing this kind of stuff suddenly cropping up again everywhere now - , the new Warhammer, and of course the new Vampire. (All of which seems to me completely contrary to the spirit of the OSR)

And this seems to be going along with a kind return of the fetishisation of the GM as god. People seem to want lots of big GM narrative games with heavy game prep and elaborate maps created on the internet and they want art of their favourite D&D characters and elaborately crafted backstories. All of which don't seem very OSR to me. Some of the D&D reddits last time I looked were almost entirely artistically rendered maps and character art and elaborately crafted backstories and all that stuff that the Forge was basically reacting against back in the day.

And given the majority of dumb questions asked on subreddits, players certainly haven't learnt that if they want to know how two rules elements interact the person to ask is their GM.
 
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TJS

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I'm happy that random generation is back on the table. It usually doesn't work for me but it works fine for some games. I'm just tired of osr evangelisation of it.

It avoids some of the problems of point-buy systems - but it brings with a lot of the same old problems it always had. I'm very tired of being told how wonderful it is if I'd only try it. I have, of course, tried it. I didn't think it was particularly wonderful.

What I'd like to see is more experimentation with different ways of making characters that try to avoid the problems of both systems. Semi-random perhaps. Are there any OSR games other than Beyond the Wall that do anything interesting in this regard?

I get why so there has been so much evangelisation in the OSR movement. I get that it developed in a largely hostile internet environment and had to fight for it's right to exist. I'm not against that. But I really really think it's time to ask ok. What's next? How many more slight modifications of the basic framework of D&D do we need?

What I'd really like to see is the good stuff from the OSR somehow get carried out of the OSR cul de sac.

And in any case do we really have to place so much focus on single choices of word? Is this the TBP, where every discussion becomes about how someone says something rather than what they say?

If you like change the first use of fetishisation to "overemphasis on randomgeneration" and the second to "celebration of the GM as god" it doesn't really change my intended meaning.
 
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Nick J

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The least interesting part of the OSR is the rules variants that have spread like kudzu. For me it's some of the genuinely creative adventures and settings that embrace a certain aesthetic (be it acid fantasy, gonzo, weird tales, horror, swords and sorcery, fairytales, etc.) with the attached rules being something to ground it.
 

Dumarest

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Q: What has been the impact of the OSR?

A: I don't follow the industry so I neither know nor care about its effect on the game business, but I have found that it has made it easier for me to find players willing to try old things. :thumbsup:
 

CRKrueger

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I'm happy that random generation is back on the table. It usually doesn't work for me but it works fine for some games. I'm just tired of osr evangelisation of it.

It avoids some of the problems of point-buy systems - but it brings with a lot of the same old problems it always had. I'm very tired of being told how wonderful it is if I'd only try it. I have, of course, tried it. I didn't think it was particularly wonderful.

What I'd like to see is more experimentation with different ways of making characters that try to avoid the problems of both systems. Semi-random perhaps. Are there any OSR games other than Beyond the Wall that do anything interesting in this regard?

I get why so there has been so much evangelisation in the OSR movement. I get that it developed in a largely hostile internet environment and had to fight for it's right to exist. I'm not against that. But I really really think it's time to ask ok. What's next? How many more slight modifications of the basic framework of D&D do we need?

What I'd really like to see is the good stuff from the OSR somehow get carried out of the OSR cul de sac.

And in any case do we really have to place so much focus on single choices of word? Is this the TBP, where every discussion becomes about how someone says something rather than what they say?

If you like change the first use of fetishisation to "overemphasis on randomgeneration" and the second to "celebration of the GM as god" it doesn't really change my intended meaning.
Actually it does change your intended meaning. Fetishization implies abnormal psychology. It shifts the focus of your argument from “I disagree with what they are doing” to “they are doing something because of who they are”. It’s the very definition of a passive aggressive ad hominem personal attack.

The TBP stuff, well...not modern TBP anyway.

How many D&D’s do we need? I need none, since class & level doesn’t do it for me at the moment. Apparently you need none either. There’s a whole lot of people who seem to need as much as they can get, more power to them.

You just don’t like where they are choosing to pour their creative energy. Watching classic game IP after classic game IP going to narrative shitshow systems, I sympathize. However I don’t confuse the fact that the systems are narrative, with my opinion that I don’t like them.
 

TJS

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Well I think I'm an authority on my intended meaning.

I'll grant it's possible that my use of the word "fetishisation" (to which I did not attach a whole lot of thought and which is merely meant to express my general feeling) may have come across as more negative than I'd intended (without further context at least) and that could possibly obscure the main points I wish to make.

However I'd suggest that the idea that I was inferring that people who like random character generation are mentally abnormal is ridiculous. The Collins Dictionary definition defines fetishisation as "to be excessively or irrationally devoted to " which seems well within the range of cognitively normal behaviour for most of us. I'd also point out that implying that the OSR is devoted to random generation to an irrational extent, does not in itself exclude the notion that people can have rational reasons for liking it, a more generous interpretation (and surely discussion would be generally be better if we did?) would be that I feel there's an element of irrationality in the OSR's championing of this feature.

So I think your interpretation is so unjustifiably hostile as to be ridiculous. Certainly I don't think it's an interpretation I could be reasonably expect to have foreseen.
 
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Trippy

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The OSR is the countertrend
Ah, yes, but if we take the Hegelian model - then history progresses, and from two opposing trends (thesis and antithesis), a new trend (hypothesis) emerges - only to be met with another counter-trend and so on. It's a cycle.
 

TristramEvans

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Ah, yes, but if we take the Hegelian model - then history progresses, and from two opposing trends (thesis and antithesis), a new trend (hypothesis) emerges - only to be met with another counter-trend and so on. It's a cycle.
fair enough, but I don't think the wheel has turned back yet - narrative/4th wave games are still going strong
 

CRKrueger

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Well I think I'm an authority on my intended meaning.

I'll grant it's possible that my use of the word "fetishisation" (to which I did not attach a whole lot of thought and which is merely meant to express my general feeling) may have come across as more negative than I'd intended (without further context at least) and that could possibly obscure the main points I wish to make.

However I'd suggest that the idea that I was inferring that people who like random character generation are mentally abnormal is ridiculous. The Collins Dictionary definition defines fetishisation as "to be excessively or irrationally devoted to " which seems well within the range of cognitively normal behaviour for most of us. I'd also point out that implying that the OSR is devoted to random generation to an irrational extent, does not in itself exclude the notion that people can have rational reasons for liking it, a more generous interpretation (and surely discussion would be generally be better if we did?) would be that I feel there's an element of irrationality in the OSR's championing of this feature.

So I think your interpretation is so unjustifiably hostile as to be ridiculous. Certainly I don't think it's an interpretation I could be reasonably expect to have foreseen.
Interesting that by your own admission, declaring them to be irrational is a generous interpretation of what was said. Declaring them to be irrational is also an ad hominem attack, ie. since they don’t like what you like, they’re obviously not thinking clearly. It’s the same vein as “caring too much about a topic”, etc.
 

TJS

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I feel like if the Hegelian synthesis were to be an accurate model of history, then the thesis is Narrative games, the anti-thesis is the OSR and the synthesis would be possibly something very strange.

To me if you look at them both from a certain perspective, both narrative games and the OSR are both trying to solve the same problems* (albeit with different tools) and are responses to the big setting heavy games that came out of the 90s.

* The big ones being the huge GM workloads that comes with preparing pre-plotted adventures and absorbing and creating setting details and also the feeling of lack of player agency that can arise when adventures are pre-prepared.

But as I said earlier it almost feels like the 90s are coming back. Maybe then the OSR and Narratives games are both in their own ways the anti-thesis and the synthesis is whatever emerges next.

Or maybe Hegel was just wrong.
 
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TristramEvans

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I feel like if the Hegelian synthesis were to be an accurate model of history, then the thesis is Narrative games, the anti-thesis is the OSR and the synthesis would be possibly something very strange.

To me if you look at them both from a certain perspective, both narrative games and the OSR are both trying to solve the same problems (albeit with different tools) and are responses to the big setting heavy games that came out of the 90s.

But as I said earlier is almost feels like the 90s are coming back. Maybe then the OSR and Narratives games are both in their own ways the anti-thesis and the synthesis is whatever emerges next.

Or maybe Hegel was just wrong.
Yeah, I'm not certain imposing philosophical theories on publishing trends will tell us anything, but I think trends are often created from reactions to other trends. The OSR was born from a general dissatisfaction with modern publishing trends that led to people looking back to "better" games they enjoyed in the past. Though while it's silly to deny that nostalgia played a huge part in formation of the OSR (including *gasp* the fetishization of Gygax's writings following his passing), I also think it's a complete fallacy when people use "nostalgia" as an all-encompassing dismissive explanation for the OSR. Nostalgia isn't what makes a game good or enjoyable.

But I'm going on a tangent. I think the synthesis is happening at the games tables, and has been since the hobby first reached a non-wargaming audience.

I'd be interested in hearing more about what you are saying about "both narrative games and the OSR are both trying to solve the same problems (albeit with different tools) and are responses to the big setting heavy games that came out of the 90s."
 

dokel

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Ah, yes, but if we take the Hegelian model - then history progresses, and from two opposing trends (thesis and antithesis), a new trend (hypothesis) emerges - only to be met with another counter-trend and so on. It's a cycle.
I would say that the current hypothesis (actually, more correctly, synthesis) is 5e.

fair enough, but I don't think the wheel has turned back yet - narrative/4th wave games are still going strong
And I would say that the osr is also going fairly strong. What we don't really have yet is any inkling of what awaits us 'post osr'. However the osr, imo, is currently a mix of genuine creativity and opportunistic bandwagon-jumping, something like the last days of punk, so the end may not be far off.
 
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TristramEvans

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If I had to hazard a guess as to "what comes next" in reaction to the OSR, it would be a completely modern system designed with OSR principles, with the sandbox/rulings not rules/etc playstyle forming the basis for systems that support that while rejecting the thousand iterations of pseudo-D&D rules sets that I think at this point are only holding the OSR back.
 

dokel

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If I had to hazard a guess as to "what comes next" in reaction to the OSR, it would be a completely modern system designed with OSR principles, with the sandbox/rulings not rules/etc playstyle forming the basis for systems that support that while rejecting the thousand iterations of pseudo-D&D rules sets that I think at this point are only holding the OSR back.
I totally agree that the healthiest direction that the 'post osr' could go in would be to create new, built from the ground up, systems that support old-school play but are not in any way derivative of older edition D&D.
 

raniE

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I totally agree that the healthiest direction that the 'post osr' could go in would be to create new, built from the ground up, systems that support old-school play but are not in any way derivative of older edition D&D.
I don't know. A large part of the appeal of the OSR is the idea of "just sit down and play". Familiar rules means that you can do just that. Entirely new games means having to learn a new system which means you can't just sit down and play anymore. Even with a simple system, a lot of people will no longer be as able to simply wing it and have a good idea of what will happen as with a system they're very familiar with.
 

TristramEvans

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I don't know. A large part of the appeal of the OSR is the idea of "just sit down and play". Familiar rules means that you can do just that. Entirely new games means having to learn a new system which means you can't just sit down and play anymore. Even with a simple system, a lot of people will no longer be as able to simply wing it and have a good idea of what will happen as with a system they're very familiar with.
I'd say that the "just sit down and play" aspect doesn't come from rules familiarity, rather that its completely unnecessary for players to learn any rules before playing.
 

dokel

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I don't know. A large part of the appeal of the OSR is the idea of "just sit down and play". Familiar rules means that you can do just that. Entirely new games means having to learn a new system which means you can't just sit down and play anymore. Even with a simple system, a lot of people will no longer be as able to simply wing it and have a good idea of what will happen as with a system they're very familiar with.
Sure, but those rules are only familiar to people who used to play older editions of D&D. Another important aspect of the osr is the introduction of elements of old school play to newer players.
 

Edgewise

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All that said, 'Old School' is a fairly nebulous term. For some, it basically means converting all games and genres to a personalised, bespoke version of old D&D rules. For others, it is a reaction to the aforementioned indie/narrative and more complicated 'genericisation' of rulesets such as D20/OGL.
Well, first of all, there is a difference between "old school" and OSR, but either way, the nature of this conversation means that we don't have to strictly define either term. The reason is that all of the different definitions have the potential to contribute something (or not, or detract), so we don't have to narrow it down.

Let's consider the different elements out there, and see what they've added or subtracted:
  • Simplicity: The aesthetic of simplicity is definitely popular in many corners of the hobby, these days. There are still heavy-crunch systems out there and there are plenty of convoluted mechanics. However, it's definitely out of fashion to think that games should strive for realism.
  • Rulings: This core idea of the OSR is one of my favorite parts, but I don't think it has become terribly popular outside the OSR. Oh well.
  • Hardcore nature of play: These days, the idea of "roguelikes" and 'Soulsborne' games have helped OSR to re-introduce the idea of lethal and unbalanced challenges. There's still plenty of resistance to this in many quarters.
  • D&D: The value of D&D as underlying game system is almost purely the ubiquity of the system. Almost everyone in the hobby has learned the basics at some point. I think D&D is a very fine system for certain situations, but it doesn't scale well without a lot of tinkering, and you don't want to stare too close at the various abstractions. It's both a benefit and an impediment - I think of it as the Windows of RPGs, but what we really need is a Linux.
  • Reactionary community elements: Probably the biggest impediment to the OSR community is the fact that much of it represents a protest against current ways of playing instead of an affirmation of certain older ways. It's a fine line but it's real.
  • Indie and arty community elements: One of the best things about the OSR community is how it embraces experimentation and mature elements (in all senses of the word). The other place you see this in role-playing, ironically, is in the storygame community.
Is this a real trend, and if we accept the Hegelian dialectic, what is the countertrend?
Like @TristramEvans said, I think that the OSR is more a reaction to than something which is reacted against. It doesn't have enough presence, IMO, to have provoked a counter-movement.

But as for what it opposes, I would say that it stands mostly against overly complex pseudo-simulationist games like Pathfinder and 4e. I mean, that's what is was largely aimed at from the start. These days, the OSR community sometimes finds itself at loggerheads with the storygame community for a bunch of reasons, some meaningful and some stupid. The stupid ones are those that revolve around obnoxious personalities on both sides of the debate. The more meaningful disagreement is between the traditional role-playing divide between GM and players versus the collaborative narrative of certain storygames.

Anyway, I think the OSR will always be a pretty small community. Small communities can have outsize influence when they manage to inject ideas into the mainstream. I think 5e represents the greatest success of OSR, and it is a significant one: Wizards heeded the call for a course correction, and the game has never been more popular.

And I think the surging tide of 5e has lifted the entire hobby, so there's some positive feedback going on. However, I don't think OSR is well-known enough to get credit, so the movement itself doesn't much benefit from its success. Oh well, no big deal. The important things are that it has shown me a better way to play, and more broadly, it has a beneficial effect on the wider hobby.
 
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dokel

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To me if you look at them both from a certain perspective, both narrative games and the OSR are both trying to solve the same problems* (albeit with different tools) and are responses to the big setting heavy games that came out of the 90s.
I have a thought about this. I feel that, in play, the "fiction first" principle associated with narrative games is essentially the same deal as the more old school "describe to me exactly what your character is doing" (in response to say a player declaring that their character is searching for traps, for example). Both are addressing the problem of players simply 'playing the numbers' on their character sheet and doing so in pretty much the same way - by requiring players to actual play their characters. In the same way that it typically isn't enough for a player in an old school D&D game to simply declare "I search for traps" (and roll dice) it isn't acceptable in a PbtA game for a player to simply declare a move without first describing what their character is doing 'in the fiction'.
 

TJS

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I'd be interested in hearing more about what you are saying about "both narrative games and the OSR are both trying to solve the same problems (albeit with different tools) and are responses to the big setting heavy games that came out of the 90s."
My impression is that
- both are concerned with avoiding players feeling railroaded. Narrative games do this by giving players some measure of narrative control while the OSR does this by putting more emphasis on sandboxes and megadungeons as modes of play.
- both are concerned with the role of the GM. Narrative games do this partly by placing constraints on the GMs and partly by giving some of the power to the players. The OSR is often associated with the whole 'viking hat' idea of the GM, but this is only partly true. A lot of the OSR is about giving the GM tools to offload some responsibility onto procedurally generated content.
- both have a mentality "play to see what happens" both, deliberately turn away from the a model of a game where players move through a GM determined plot towards a pre-determined climax.
- both are about making the role of a GM easier. One of the things I've seen on reddit and roll20 is the sense that there's a dearth of 5E gms compared to players, and at the same time I've seen players saying they don't think they could GM because it's too much work/too hard/ they don't have the talent etc.
- both are against the GM overruling the dice and fudging results. Narrative games through making rulesets where this is not necessary, the OSR through encouraging a mode of play where this is not desirable.
- both are to a degree about "system matters". In the case of the OSR it's about getting back to what D&D is supposed to be good at and recovering the ways the rules are intended to work (although there's important differences here - the OSR is not about creating universal rules systems that guide everything.)
 
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TJS

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I have a thought about this. I feel that, in play, the "fiction first" principle associated with narrative games is essentially the same deal as the more old school "describe to me exactly what your character is doing" (in response to say a player declaring that their character is searching for traps, for example). Both are addressing the problem of players simply 'playing the numbers' on their character sheet and doing so in pretty much the same way - by requiring players to actual play their characters. In the same way that it typically isn't enough for a player in an old school D&D game to simply declare "I search for traps" (and roll dice) it isn't acceptable in a PbtA game for a player to simply declare a move without first describing what their character is doing 'in the fiction'.
Yes. I think the first time I heard someone say "You have to do it to do it" I assumed it was something that had come out of the OSR.
 

Chris Brady

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It brought us more games, more people experimented with the older style and changed it up. Looking at you Godbound and Black Streams: Solo Heroes/Scarlet Heroes (Sine Nomine), Beyond The Wall and all the rest.

As much as I dislike the division the name tends to cause, I can't deny that some of my favourite games have come from it.
 

TJS

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If I had to hazard a guess as to "what comes next" in reaction to the OSR, it would be a completely modern system designed with OSR principles, with the sandbox/rulings not rules/etc playstyle forming the basis for systems that support that while rejecting the thousand iterations of pseudo-D&D rules sets that I think at this point are only holding the OSR back.
I think both Numenera and Shadow of a Demon Lord are this to some degree.

Interesting that both aim to be fairly simple easy to adjudicate systems while still presenting a lot of player facing options which OSR games typically lack.
 

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Not much OSR round here, but that's not a slam to the OSR but a reflection the people in my real life gaming circle. While most of us GM and we do play a mix of new and old games (where currently playing the Sentinels of the Multiverse RPG in its pre-release for backers version), the guys people are have a much more extensive knowledge of games from the 90s or even 80s like CoC, AD&D, Mage or WEG Star Wars than what is happening now. I suspect one or two may not even have heard the term OSR.

I think the issue is that not everyone is keen enough to follow forums or Facebook groups that relate to the hobby. So I guess, for a certain demographich, the ritual pilgrimage to the specialst roleplaying game shop coupled with the odd copy hobby magazine or convetion visit was more effective way of learning what's out there.

The closest we've come to playing OSR game is when I ran Owl Hoot Trail, which may or may not count depending how you look at it. And if someone were to pitch D&D games, they'd probably just go with D&D5e.
 
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Here we go again. Someone doesn’t like how people play, so they “fetishize” everything.

Give it a rest, for fuck’s sake.
You mean, like those people that fetishize fourth wall-breaking mechanics:grin:?

Also, the synthesis of OSR and indie games already exists (naturally, since OD&D was an "indie" game when it was created). Check The Nightmares Underneath for a start, maybe the Black Hack, and a couple of others that I don't remember.
 

Black Leaf

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If I had to hazard a guess as to "what comes next" in reaction to the OSR, it would be a completely modern system designed with OSR principles, with the sandbox/rulings not rules/etc playstyle forming the basis for systems that support that while rejecting the thousand iterations of pseudo-D&D rules sets that I think at this point are only holding the OSR back.
Actually, I think we're already seeing the "post OSR" although it's more a natural development than a reaction to it.

What I'm seeing from the young un's.

None of them know what an "OSR" is. Only a slightly bigger number will be familiar with the term "storygame".

As far as they're concerned, they're all RPGs. The only difference between a traditionalist RPG and a narrative RPG is mechanical as far as they're concerned. There's no brand loyalty there.

The fight to let people know it was worth playing older games? The OSR has won. Categorically. It doesn't even occur to them it could be otherwise. It doesn't seem to be a nostalgia kick so much as an automatic assumption that good games are still good games.

However, from their perspective any reference to "old school" could mean Vampire the Masquerade as much as D&D. Young people. *Sigh*

So to conclude, what I think the big success of the OSR has been is that it no longer needs to fight, just help each other out in publishing etc. The very fact it's irrelevant beyond that now is a massive victory. One of its central premises, that old games were worthy of attention and play? There's nobody left to counter on that anymore.
 

CRKrueger

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You mean, like those people that fetishize fourth wall-breaking mechanics:grin:?

Also, the synthesis of OSR and indie games already exists (naturally, since OD&D was an "indie" game when it was created). Check The Nightmares Underneath for a start, maybe the Black Hack, and a couple of others that I don't remember.
Pretty sure it’s been a few years since I’ve tossed that one out at someone. I usually use it against someone who’s doing it showing them how that shit works and isn’t an argument. Someone called me on it and, of course, they were right.

People can choose to mix not-roleplaying into their roleplaying - it’s fine, as long as they don’t claim that’s not what they’re doing. :gunslinger:
 

Voros

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Actually, I think we're already seeing the "post OSR" although it's more a natural development than a reaction to it.

What I'm seeing from the young un's.

None of them know what an "OSR" is. Only a slightly bigger number will be familiar with the term "storygame".

As far as they're concerned, they're all RPGs. The only difference between a traditionalist RPG and a narrative RPG is mechanical as far as they're concerned. There's no brand loyalty there.

The fight to let people know it was worth playing older games? The OSR has won. Categorically. It doesn't even occur to them it could be otherwise. It doesn't seem to be a nostalgia kick so much as an automatic assumption that good games are still good games.

However, from their perspective any reference to "old school" could mean Vampire the Masquerade as much as D&D. Young people. *Sigh*

So to conclude, what I think the big success of the OSR has been is that it no longer needs to fight, just help each other out in publishing etc. The very fact it's irrelevant beyond that now is a massive victory. One of its central premises, that old games were worthy of attention and play? There's nobody left to counter on that anymore.
I agree with this, noticed that the Toronto OSR recently had a game of Dogs in the Vineyard. That would cause some of the veterans of the ForgeWars to have an aneurysm over the sheer heresy of it all.

Also I think the OSR has officially reached its Punk is Dead moment:

 
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Ladybird

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I have a thought about this. I feel that, in play, the "fiction first" principle associated with narrative games is essentially the same deal as the more old school "describe to me exactly what your character is doing" (in response to say a player declaring that their character is searching for traps, for example). Both are addressing the problem of players simply 'playing the numbers' on their character sheet and doing so in pretty much the same way - by requiring players to actual play their characters. In the same way that it typically isn't enough for a player in an old school D&D game to simply declare "I search for traps" (and roll dice) it isn't acceptable in a PbtA game for a player to simply declare a move without first describing what their character is doing 'in the fiction'.
IMEX there's a big overlap between the PbtA fans and OSR-ish fans and philosophies.

I'm happy to see fewer games with "huge lists of perks to choose between", "long character generation", and "rules that are slow to resolve"; I want to get playing fast, learn in play, pick what seems vaguely right and have it work, and spend as little time faffing with the boring bits of RPG's as possible. I'm over six-hour-long character gen.

---

Sometimes random character gen is fine and sometimes it isn't, and it really all depends on how the player feels about it. I'm in the "give it a fair shot first" camp, but if someone says they don't like it, then the game should still give them a way to create a "reasonable" character without it; standard array is fine, Crawford's "14, 11 or 7, no more 14's than 7's" is fine too, as examples, but I also like 1974 D&D's "you roll stats, they basically don't matter" philosophy.
 

robertsconley

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Anyway, feel free to throw in some counterpoints. :smile:

Is this a real trend, and if we accept the Hegelian dialectic, what is the countertrend?
The OSR is what results when hobbyists have the freedom to create and share their material in conjunction with the low barriers for productions and distribution enabled by digital technology and with no dominant publisher.

While the D20 SRD started the trend towards open content. The internet and digital technology was in many way still in its infancy. Plus the original publisher, Wizards of the Coast, set a standard by which third party product were judged by. The dynamics of this can still be seen in the Fate and Pathfinder hobbyist community. Both have a wealth of open content however remain dominated by the original publisher of their respective RPGs.

In contrast the OSR had no dominant player. Largely due that it was focused on out of print, unsupported RPGs, the classic editions of D&D. In addition the initial retro-clone were viewed as a hack that could expose their author to cease & desist and lawsuit by Wizards of the Coast. As a consequence many of the large D&D 3.X 3PP who made their name supporting "old school" gaming opted not jump in like Troll Lords Games and Necromancer Games.

The result was within two years a small and diverse collection of publishers, including myself. You can see a partial timeline of various OSR products in the Horde and Hordes timeline maintained by Guy Fullerson. Which is a comphrensive listing of all OSR product supporting a classic edition up until April 2012 when it became too overwhelming. After which the author only added what he dealt with.

The genesis of the OSR occurred during the development of Castles & Crusade by Troll Lord Games. Castles & Crusade was developed by Troll Lord, who wanted to make something compatible with 1st edition AD&D. During that process a group of hobbyist pushed for making C&C not just compatible but a clone of AD&D 1st edition. Troll Lord Games was not comfortable with this and as a consequence Matt Finch started writing OSRIC. When real life intervened, Stuart Marshall took over the writing.

There was a general sense in the mid 2000s that the d20 SRD could be altered to produce something close to a classic edition of D&D. In parallel with OSRIC, Chris Gonnerman started writing Basic Fantasy. In January 2006 the first version of Basic Fantasy was released followed a few month later by the first version of OSRIC.

What these two system demonstrated was that if you omit the newer mechanics of feats, skills, and multi-classing what remains of the d20 SRD is remarkable close to the classic editions of D&D. Because it open content and the process is straight forward, the door was throw open for anybody else to produce their own retro-clone. By 2009 it became apparent that Wizards of the Coast isn't going to C&D any of the retro-clone.

  • Open Content
  • The use of Digital Technology for distribution and production
  • Lack of a dominant publisher
The three essential ingredients of the OSR.

Digital Technology and the rest of the hobby
Outside of the world of classic D&D, digital technology has had an impact on the world of independent publishing. However just prior to digital technology taking the next leap, independent publishing was dominated by the Forge and the Indie Press Revolution. Partly because the group was helping prospective author in navigating the pitfalls of producing and distributing works.

In the early 2000s digital technology helped, but software that helped with producing RPG works was very expensive. Digital distribution was viewed as inferior, and the distribution of physical product still used traditional method of sales.

In addition the only popular source of open content was the D20 SRd which was viewed among independents as a cash grab by Wizards of the Coast to further their evil corporate agenda. And beside it was about Dungeons & Dragon the most broken RPG system ever developed :wink:

The OSR changed that.

None of the early OSR author turned to IPR for help, including myself, as we all knew of its hostility of its community towards any edition of D&D. The early OSR community was defensive about its focus on classic D&D and didn't want to hear about how X edition was broken and unplayable. Much of the early OSR was focused on distributing PDFs, either through one's website or DriveThruRPG/RGPNow which was ramping up.

But then there was Lulu.

It quickly became apparent that Lulu and print on demand was the way to get around the problem of distributing physical products. Lulu was very important to the early OSR, including myself, in getting print products out there. A large part of why OSR became the movement's name is because there was a Lulu Storefront called the Old School Renaissance that collected all the early OSR product including my own. A few years DriveThruRPG gained the ability to support on Print on Demand and Lulu declined in importance.

However the path the OSR pioneered can be used by any author supporting any system they created or had the rights too to get their work out there. Thus by 2015, there was an explosion of independent publishers alongside the OSR.

Maybe Classic D&D isn't that broken after all
As the OSR was approaching it's tenth year it became apparent that it wasn't going away. It also had a diverse range of products even in the area of RPG systems. Hobbyists didn't just make clones, they made hybrids, and new systems based of classic D&D. Then there were numerous accounts about how hobbyists were enjoyed playing classic edition campaigns. Then there was the ramp up to D&D 5th edition with Wizards admitting there was merit to how the older edition did things.

All of this meant that independents took a second look at classic D&D, old school gaming, and other similar concepts. Started incorporating different elements into their own efforts.

The OSR is still here
The great thing about all this is that none of the things based on open content is going to go away. Even it if isn't what everybody talking about, the pieces are there for anybody with the interest to pick it and write about it. Digital Technology means that effort can be widely shared or distributed. Open content also means that one can share based on the time and resources they have. You can write a one page PDF and post a link. Or you can plunk down the capital to contract for a print run in Lithuania, write about your upcoming product on social media, and distribute it through a fulfillment warehouse. Or anything in between.

What this means for the rest of the hobby?
Support open content. Encourage publishers to release their systems as open content. If the hobby wants a diverse range of product, wants different play style supported then get open content out there for those interested to use.
 

robertsconley

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The OSR was born from a general dissatisfaction with modern publishing trends that led to people looking back to "better" games they enjoyed in the past. Though while it's silly to deny that nostalgia played a huge part in formation of the OSR (including *gasp* the fetishization of Gygax's writings following his passing), I also think it's a complete fallacy when people use "nostalgia" as an all-encompassing dismissive explanation for the OSR. Nostalgia isn't what makes a game good or enjoyable.
The early OSR was about being able to share and publish material for RPGs they never quit playing. The nostalgia factor came around later.
 

robertsconley

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Also I think the OSR has officially reached its Punk is Dead moment:

The thing to keep in mind that while the world of independent publishing expand and diversifies, there still a group of hobbyists who like to play and buy material to support classic editions of D&D.

But as I said in my previous posts, what the OSR does to support classic D&D and "old school" gaming can be used to support other systems and other styles of play. Including hybrids. That part is not specific to the OSR.
 

Black Leaf

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The early OSR was about being able to share and publish material for RPGs they never quit playing. The nostalgia factor came around later.
The whole "it's all nostalgia" argument pretty much died as soon as you got the first OSR player who wasn't around for the originals. Fashionably retro possibly, but that's not the same thing.
 

The Butcher

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For me, personally, the OSR meant that I got to make sense of much of the TSR D&D rules and assumptions I discarded as nonsensical back in the day; that everyone was publishing their TSR D&D houserules and hacks as complete rulesets with original art, and some of them were really, really cool; and that huge dungeons with weird aesthetics were now a thing.

I can't help but suspect it also contributed somehow to the resurgence of Traveller and Runequest, games I got to know only then, and now number among my favorites.

It may also have played a role in the genesis of D&D5, the Rosetta Stone of D&D, which everyone in my extended gaming group was happy to pick up and run, pronto.

All wins in my books.

Couldn't care less about everything else.
 

Stevethulhu

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There's some serious irony in that meme.

That's from the Rolling Stones show at the Altamont Free Festival, California, 1969. Where a Hell's Angel, who were allegedly hired as security for $500 worth of beer, stabbed and killed an audience member. It's widely considered to be the end of the Summer of Love, and the death knell of the 60s counterculture.

Maybe not the best choice for a meme about everyone coming together :wink:
 
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